Across the Miles

Yes, we’ve been across the miles, from here to Washington (State) and back. That’s why there’ve been no blog posts of late, but ah hah! I’m going to rectify that.

Day One (sorry, no oats for Doris)

Last Thursday at Godawfulearly in the morning we took the Super Shuttle to BWI to fly to Seattle. Imagine our surprise when we got there and found out the damned flight had been canceled. We were somewhat displeased, as you can imagine. However, we were rerouted (via Dallas instead of Chicago) and suffered only a “small” delay. Which however, knocked out much possibility of sight-seeing in Seattle that afternoon, but allowed me to claim one more state, even if only for an airport layover. Here is a picture of irrigated fields in Texas, the Dallas airport and snow covered mountains between there and Seattle:

Crop irrigation in TexasDallasSnow covered mountains

We got to Seattle and checked in and realized just how tired we were. I napped and then instead of going downtown to see the city by night, we had a a pizza delivered and went to bed after consuming it. Driving in we got a sight of the Seattle skyline:

Seattle Skyline

Day Two (still no oats for old Doris)

Up and at ’em early for breakfast (still amazed at how nice people were – so different from the Kings and Queens of ‘Tude we get around here) and then downtown to the Space Needle to look out over Seattle (all are thumbnails so click to make them bigger):

The Space NeedleSpace NoodleBronze sculptures in the parking lotMusic MuseumMusic Museum from aboveDowntown Seattle with the monorail tracksDowntown from upaboveCruise ships waiting in the harbour

Then we hopped the monorail downtown and a city bus (they’re free in downtown Seattle!) to Pike Place market. I could have wandered around downtown all day. Unlike Baltimore or Washington, people still go downtown to shop, socialize, dine, gather, just like in Europe. It makes a difference – Seattle was so clean and neat and tidy and safe-feeling. I felt right at home (the grey skies and damp wind may have helped!). After wandering around the market we stopped for tea and crumpets at a little cafe and made our way back to the rental car:

AngloAm on the MonorailAnd Waiting for a BusPike PlaceIn the MarketFlower sellersRachel the famous pigThe variety and freshness were impressiveWe didn't see any flying fishRiding the monorail; that's Nordstrom's first store

From there we left the urban delights of Seattle, wishing we could stay a bit longer, and drove down a somewhat crowded I-5 past Tacoma and Olympia to Kelso, WA, where we were to stay the night. I discovered that the Oregon coast was only an hour away so we decided that rather than spend another evening in the hotel room dining on delivery pizza we’d go exploring. It was dark-ish and gloomy and foggy but we had a good time, crossed into Oregon and drove down US30 through Astoria (where The Goonies and Free Willy, among others, were filmed), a charming port town on the Columbia River, all steep streets and Finnish workers’ halls (ah, the memories of Finland), to Seaside, where C braved the cold winds and flying mist to snap a few pictures of the Pacific. (My plantar fasciitis was and is acting up and I didn’t care to make it worse climbing all over the sand). We came back through Astoria again (there aren’t many roads out there!) and had dinner at a fish and chips place. Far too much fish! But good.

Bridge to OregonWelcome to OregonThrough the forestsPea flowers grew in abundanceCold, wet Oregon coastAstoria, OregonDamp Astoria's damp docksOur restaurant for the eveningMuch too much fish

Day Three (how sad, Ms. D.)A-Duck-from-Maryland

Leaving the parking lot we saw this – an old Citroën 2CV (aka a ‘Duck’) which I’d not seen since my days in Germany, and guess what? It had Maryland plates of all things. Just think of the odds against us seeing it. Somebody from our state drove this tiny little car all the way across the country to wind up in this non-descript town on this particular day for us to see. If you own this car in question – please tell me what you were doing and how you got there – it has to be a fascinating story.

From that vision we were off to see Mount Saint Helens, through the fog and rain. The ride up along WA 504, Spirit Lake Highway, is very dramatic once you pass the little villages up – you can still see the silted up river beds and blasted trees. The road’s been improved since the eruption in 1980 and has some impressive bridges. The visitors’ center at Johnston Ridge was very well done; there were explanations of the eruption, the pyroclastic flow, the lateral blast, the ash fall, and a great movie that gave a real sense of what it was like to see. I’d have liked to learn more about what the ash falling was like but I did appreciate the rest of the insights. We got to pick up all the different types of rock that can be created, feather-light pumice stone to glassy obsidian – it’s so hard that surgical instruments can be made from it and they never lose their edge, which can be smoother and finer than steel can be made. All in all it was a fascinating time even if I don’t have impressive pictures of the blast crater and growing dome to show you.

WA SR 504Bridge along Spirit Lake Highway to Mt. St. HelensAt Johnston ObservatoryTrees were either vaporized or flattenedYou can see how thick the ash isRivers have cut paths through the feet upon feet of ashA lake whose level was raised in the blastShe's out there, somewhere

Leaving Mt. St. Helens we drove quite a way nearly back to Seattle and on up WA SR 18 to I-90 through the Snoqualmie Pass, which we couldn’t see due to the rain, and over the ‘rain shadow line.’ It was amazing; one moment it was wet and drippy and foggy and the next it was dry and sunny and nearly arid. We got off I-90 and drove up through the Wenatchee National Forest to Leavenworth, a German-themed town full to the brim with touristy but charming shops and restaurants and performing artists and artisans. We walked from the hotel into town and picked a lovely little restaurant, the Andreas Keller, for Wiener Schnitzel with Spätzle – while most German Gasthäuser don’t have fiddlers wandering about, everything else was very authentic, the pale pine furniture, the Münchener Hofbräu adverts, the Bavarian paintings on the outside and inside of the place. Walking back we took our time window shopping and enjoying the lights of the town. It was so cool and pleasant and honestly I didn’t want the evening to end:

At last, the turn off from I-5!Wetly through the mountainsWenatchee National ForestSo blinking gorgeous, fresh, and cool - heavenIm KellerBavarian PaintingLeavenworth eveningChristmassy lights in LeavenworthStreets in the evening

Day Four (Doris has given up the ghost)

After a breakfast in a Danish bakery (rather good turnovers) we wandered around Leavenworth’s tiny downtown. If (a) we were driving home and (b) hadn’t gotten a bit frustrated at the decorative dust-catchers and tchotchkes around the house and (c) didn’t have some German and Russian things already we’d have spent up a storm. We did go into an Australian store but it was trying too hard and too full of touristy things that C cringed at. But the day was so relaxing and nice; we sat under the shade of a big oak tree and listened to the oom-pah-pah band and watched the world go by.

After Bratwurst at what amounted to an Imbiß (mmm good) we hopped into the car and crossed central Washington to Spokane and my friend CB’s house. Now once we descended from the hills, we entered a strange land of rocky hills and riverside cliffs, unlike anything I’d ever seen before. This was amazing to me and I wish I could have stayed. However, that soon transitioned to a rather boring flat area, before the road hilled up again approaching Spokane. We met CB at his comic book shop where C bought a comic for me to send to a South African guy I know. (Should have mailed it off today, darn it!) At his house we met his lovely wife and two charming children and caught up and chatted. They served us a lovely dinner and we retired early. It was so great to see CB again; I’d last seen him when he was still in the Army, stationed in Böblingen, Germany, in April of 1985. We tried to remember old friends’ and coworkers’ names (SGT Frater, Annette somebody, Ann Gloninger, Lynn somebody) and reminisced quite a bit. C was so nice sitting there listening to what had to be for him somewhat boring:

Leavenworth morningBreakfastFront Street in L'worthTown centerThe rooves of LeavenworthPainted housesFront StreetMaypole and hotelWindow boxUnder the spreading oak treeP6070177Darkish rocks and scrubDarkish rocks and scrubThe Columbia RiverFlat boring central WashingtonApproaching Spokane

Day Five (nothing from Doris)

Up for coffee and breakfast and off so as not to be a burden to CB or his family. We drove out from Spokane to Idaho, and then just over the border into Montana. That adds two more states! Coffee/lunch-ish in Coeur d’Alene, ID, which is stunningly beautiful. You’ll have to take my word for it as I have no pics. Sorry. 🙂 Back to the comic book store so C could do a little shopping for himself, then out to dinner with CB+family for Italian. Before we could go out, though, we had to stop and admire his giant cock. It’s quite a cock. He decorates it for the holidays and seasons; if I had a big cock like that I’d do the same. Are you tired of the cheesy double entendres yet? I am. Later on we were up quite late chatting. CB’s missus is very easy to get along with. And, if you’re in the Spokane area, look for her delicious and beautiful shimmering and delicate chocolates to be in better stores soon. She kindly shared some with us and they were delicious. The white ones with the opalescent effect were ethereally beautiful. Nearly too good to eat.

IdahoA pass in the pouring rainMontanaIdaho againWallace, Idaho, drips in the rainMy friend's comic book storeMe, my old friend, and his giant cock

Day Six (Doris will never be seen again) and really, unwanted Day Seven

Flying is fun, but as my friend DRS pointed out, air travel isn’t. Because of storms back east, our flight from Spokane to Salt Lake was delayed, and our flight from Salt Lake to BWI was delayed even more. Basically, after saying a reluctant goodbye to CB and realizing it sucks that we’re so far apart, we were travelling until 3 am (EDT). It was grueling. I mean, no one thing was particularly exhausting, the flights were mostly uneventful but all the waiting was a bit much, and getting in to the deserted (except for us long suffering travelers) at nearly the same time we’d been dropped off on the first day of our trip was not planned. We couldn’t possibly get to work the next day and I think were were asleep until something like noon. We did on the trip get to see the Great Salt Lake (interesting, not all that gorgeous) and the Wasatch Front in Utah (another state!). I really would like to get to Utah one day and see the Front and Bryce Canyon and all the strange otherworldly geography in the southern part of the state:

The Great Salt LakeMaking a CPK Thai pizza last and lastIf you look closely you'll see our 2 and a half hour delayTired and bleary past midnight on the planeBWI sure is deserted at night, and rightly so!

Oh, yeah, forgot to mention. C & I didn’t sit together from SLC to BWI. He got to sit next to two interesting, friendly, chatty, fascinating (and rather good looking) musicians who make up an electronic band called “Aligning Minds” – I’d like to go see them. I got sat next to a Mr. Grumpy who glared at whatever book he was reading the whole time (and refused to trade with C so we could sit together). Also, we had to take a very expensive taxi because Super Shuttle stops running at 1 am. Next time I’m parking at the airport…except maybe not because I do like the car to be in the driveway. Anyway, thanks very much to CB and his family for a wonderful visit and I can tell anyone who’s not been there, Washington is a beautiful state.

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